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Dec 28, 2018 5:17 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Town Sues Two Local Fire Departments, Sand Pit Owner And Chemical Companies Over Wainscott Contamination

East Hampton Town has sued East Hampton Village and Bridgehampton Fire District because of the potential role their fire departments played in the spreading of chemical contamination in fire-supressant foams used in training drills. The departments particpated in a drill in June 2000, at the former sand mine owned by Wainscott Sand & Gravel, which is also being named as a plaintiff in the town's suit.  Michael Wright
Dec 31, 2018 2:12 PM

East Hampton Town will sue East Hampton Village, the Bridgehampton Fire District, the owners of the Wainscott Sand & Gravel sand pit and several chemical companies that are already defendants in dozens of lawsuits from around the country over the contamination of groundwater by the class of chemicals commonly called PFAs.

The town’s lawsuit, which was expected to be filed on Friday, looks to spread the town’s own potential long-term liability in the contamination among the various entities that also may have played a role, however small, in spreading contamination.

The East Hampton Fire Department, which is owned by the village, and the Bridgehampton Fire Department may have taken part in firefighting drills at East Hampton Airport using fire-suppressant foams that are suspected as possible sources of the contamination discovered in Wainscott in 2017, and ultimately detected in more than 200 private wells scattered throughout the hamlet.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has said it is investigating the 70-acre Wainscott Sand & Gravel mine property as a potential source of the contamination as well, although it’s not known whether that is because a major emergency training drill was held there in June 2000, during which fire-suppressant foams were sprayed on the ground, or because of other possible sources of the chemicals at the property.

The lawsuit also names the manufacturing giant 3M Company and more than a dozen other manufacturers of firefighting materials as defendants.

As the owner of the airport land, the town is already a co-defendant in a class-action lawsuit brought by a Wainscott resident against the town and many of the same manufacturers the town is now suing.

“What this says is, if we are liable to the plaintiff, you are liable to us,” Councilman Jeff Bragman, who is an attorney, said of the targets of the town lawsuit. “This is just saying that there is some indication that these entities may have played some role in the contamination. It’s not unusual in lawsuits that everybody sort of joins in everybody else, and then it gets sorted out during the litigation. It’s a prudent step for someone in the town’s position.”

Attorney Dan Osborn, who filed the class-action suit against the town on behalf of homeowner Kim Shipman, also recently filed new complaints against Wainscott Sand & Gravel and one other current and one former Wainscott business that he thinks could also be potential sources of the contamination. They are Griffiths Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning and Shaw Aero Devices Inc., a former airplane parts manufacturer that was based on Industrial Road until the late 1980s before being acquired by the giant Ohio-based manufacturing firm Parker Hannifin.

“I don’t think the contamination is coming from the airport, frankly,” Mr. Osborn said on Friday. “It seems too substantial to be caused by a few training drills. [The sand pit], I’m not sure about. I think fill that’s been accepted there over the years could have led to contamination. Shaw Aero, I think, might have left a lot of stuff behind when they closed. They had a substantial operation there.”

Mr. Osborn had previously voiced his suspicions about the carpet cleaning company as a potential source, since some carpets and upholstery are treated with chemicals, including PFAs, to make them water-repellent or stain-resistant.

“The owners of Griffiths Carpet Cleaning are a local family who takes pride in running an environmentally friendly and conscious business,” said William D. Shapiro, an East Hampton attorney who represents the owners of the company. “They always make sure their employees follow all proper protocols to ensure the East End maintains the beauty, which makes it such a special place. Griffiths categorically denies any wrongdoing and is sure any investigation will prove the same. “

Ms. Shipman’s lawsuit has been lumped together with more than 85 other similar lawsuits, all listing many of the same defendants, over the contamination of drinking water supplies by PFAs, which were only in recent years identified as potentially hazardous to human health. New York State and the Suffolk County Water Authority are both plaintiffs in other lawsuits against the manufacturers of the chemicals.

The discovery of two variants of the chemicals—known as PFOS and PFOA—in wells in southern Wainscott has led to an ongoing investigation of the source by the State Department of Environmental Conservation that has thus far focused on the East Hampton Airport and surrounding properties, because fire-suppressant foams stored there and occasionally used for training have been cited as a source of similar contamination in other parts of the country.

The Suffolk County Water Authority recently completed the installation of new water mains to more than 500 homes in the hamlet, an approximately $10 million project paid for primarily with a grant from New York State. The town has offered to front the cost of connecting homes to the mains, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on how far from the road a house is, and amortize them into a property’s town taxes over 20 years. But many residents have said that the Suffolk County Water Authority’s approved contractor for the work is several times more expensive than privately hired contractors that the town cannot legally pay for.

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Are the fire departments using new products now???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 28, 18 6:33 PM
Spreading out the liability is the classic way for insurance companies to limit their losses however by Jeff Bragman convincing the Town to sue the local Fire Departments is wrong, these Fire Service members and their boards of commissioners have always gone over and above as Volunteers in these communities and beyond, giving their time and effort and would never knowingly put someone else in danger. Jeff Bragman good luck going forward in the small town sir, you are nothing but a taker.
By 11953guest (48), southampton on Dec 29, 18 9:05 AM
2 members liked this comment
Sueing the Volunteer FD's is wrong as is the pit owner who let the departments use it for FREE.
Sue the chemical companies and NYS by allowing the use of these foams. Sue the DEC also. Sue, sue sue...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 29, 18 11:05 AM
1 member liked this comment
Most importantly -- an ENORMUS Thank You to volunteer members of local Fire Departments and Ambulance Corps!!!

It's getting harder and harder to staff our local volunteer ambulance and fire departments. Demographics out here are changing and fewer locals are sticking around into their young adulthood. This lawsuit may further hamstring local volunteer fire departments ability to maintain their current high level of service at the current very low cost to east end taxpayers.

Sad ...more
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Dec 29, 18 11:35 AM
Really Bragman, suing our poor volunteer firemen for using a product that was approved and effective against things like car and roof fires? The firemen didn’t know it was a contaminant. Plus we are still waiting for Bragman to release the airport maintenance funds he is holding hostage over this issue. Neither Bragman, Overby, nor their buddies in the anti-airport land grab faction have recanted the multitude of accusations they made against local pilots and airport operations claiming we ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Dec 29, 18 12:25 PM
It is standard legal practice for the liability insurance company that has been required to defend the Town to assert third-party claims against all entities that may have been more culpable than the Town for any water pollution that may eventually be proven to have been caused by Town actions.. Note that it is the Fire Districts, independent governmental bodies, and not the Fire Departments, that are the proper parties to be added into the complex pending litigation. The Fire Districts will be ...more
By davbud (127), east hampton on Dec 29, 18 1:32 PM
Except that is not how insurance defense works in the real world. IF the fire departments have CGL policies they will likely be riddled with exclusions, such as the standard ISO Pollution Exclusion, which will mean the insurance companies’ response to the claim will be an immediate denial of both coverage and duty to defend. The fire departments will then have to retain their own coverage counsel at their own expense just to fight the insurance companies to try to get them to participate, ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Dec 29, 18 3:37 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By EastEnder17 (3), East Hampton on Jan 16, 19 11:40 AM
One overlooked source of PFO’s are those used in latex and low/no VOC paints. WB paints typically contain 50-150 mg PFO/kg. They are suspected class 2B carcinogens. How much of this stuff do you think ends up in the ground with all the construction and renovation projects going on. The disposal of such including rinse water isn’t regulated.
By Dawn_O (45), Southampton on Dec 29, 18 4:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
Did the Town buy the fire crash truck that is only used at the airport??? And that crash truck uses the the problem foam used for aircraft fires??? Was it used at the airport property for drills???
Go figure, town suing itself...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 29, 18 5:09 PM
That is 100% INACCURATE AND FALSE! The crash truck only uses WATER. Which you would know if you had ever been to any of the airport events and seen it demonstrated. But spreading false information about the airport is what you seem to do best.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Dec 29, 18 7:06 PM
Not to mention we haven’t had an “aircraft fire” at the airport in well over 40 years. The one the crashed north of the airport a several years ago only had a small fire that was put out with water.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Dec 29, 18 7:11 PM
Local, find it hard to believe a crash truck would not carry foam? Most pumper trucks carry foam for car fires.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 30, 18 12:47 PM
Suing the chemical companies for misuse by a fire dept? lol
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 2, 19 9:08 PM
What a mess! These lawsuits will do nothing but delay and take $ from taxpayers. The DEC needs to do it's job and protect our water supply from harmful chemical exposure. The DEC AND the TOWNS needs to get over there and monitor the properties owned by Tintle. Comply or shut down and clean up the contamination! Both the Bridgehampton and EH locations of Wainscott Sand & Gravel are involved in contamination issues and Cuomo's DEC has done nothing to ensure they comply with regulations! The DEC turns ...more
By Hamlet01 (3), Sag Harbor on Jan 3, 19 12:23 PM
Why hasn't the EPA and DEC banned these products. I've been a fireman for 48 years and didn't know how bad these products have been.
SUE, sue sue....
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jan 4, 19 12:28 PM